Celebrity activist Erin Brockovich tells Christchurch: 'Six years is too long'

Erin Brockovich speaking in Christchurch on Monday about the state of the rebuild and ongoing insurance claims.
ALDEN WILLIAMS/FAIRFAX NZ

Erin Brockovich speaking in Christchurch on Monday about the state of the rebuild and ongoing insurance claims.

Celebrity consumer rights activist Erin Brockovich says the Christchurch rebuild is taking too long.

The 56-year-old American, who was immortalised in a Hollywood film about her battle against a US energy company, was in New Zealand in Monday to speak with Christchurch insurance claimants.

Brockovich spent Monday visiting the houses of people still dealing with insurance companies and the Earthquake Commission to settle their claims and repair their homes.

Julia Roberts accepts her Oscar for Best Actress for her role in "Erin Brockovich".
GARY HERSHORN/REUTERS

Julia Roberts accepts her Oscar for Best Actress for her role in "Erin Brockovich".

"The conditions that they're living in broke my heart," she said.

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"To see, six years into this, what hadn't been done and what hadn't changed astounded me."

Erin Brockovich consults for Shine Lawyers, an Australian legal firm that also practices in Christchurch.
ALDEN WILLIAMS/FAIRFAX NZ

Erin Brockovich consults for Shine Lawyers, an Australian legal firm that also practices in Christchurch.

Brockovich said money was the main reason the process was being dragged out for so long.

"At the end of the day these are huge payouts. It's the root cause for why we see, in most of these situations, big delays."

Brockovich is most famous for her work as a legal clerk whose investigation led to the success of a major class action against the Pacific Gas and Electric Company in California in the 1990s.

She came into the spotlight after the 2000 release of Erin Brockovich, starring Julia Roberts.

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Since then, Brockovich has worked on many high-profile cases, usually to do with environment and health.

She consults for Shine Lawyers, an Australian legal firm that also practices in Christchurch.

Brockovich said the link between her other cases and the situation in Christchurch was people's need for health, welfare and safety for their families.

"We all have more in common than you realise."

She said in her visits she saw families living in terrible conditions.

"The black mould in these houses is suffocating.

"I hope insurance companies continue to get the message: this is ridiculous."

She said she had plenty of experience dealing with insurance companies.

Claimants needed support to get justice, she said.

"Oftentimes leadership isn't aware fully of what's going on in the community because people aren't talking to them."

Visiting Christchurch had been an "eye-opening experience", she said.

"It's been too long. Six years is too long."

 - Stuff

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